The core issue here (at least as I see it) is really one that's been
rattling around forever: national arts funding. It is incomprehensible to
me (as jaded as I am) that Canada and European countries (France comes to
mind) continue to view film and video as cultural capital as a matter of
course, while, in the US, the support and preservation of the arts receives
spit (or less).
I agree with you: there is an enormous risk of the moving hand of
technology and capitalism (synonyms, no?) wiping large amounts of amazing
stuff off the plate. This may not happen in the next five years, but it is
very likely to happen sometime. Once DVDs reach suitable market
penetration, and once read/write technology makes it onto the shelves of
Circuit City...adios tape. I don't think on-demand video (i.e. streamed
digital video) is going to save the day...we're simply too far from
universal access to the kinds of bandwidth and memory required to pull this
off. So...what? Are there consortial possibilities that would help indie
producers realize an economy of scale? Are there large commercial partners
willing to underwrite conversion? I dunno...
I worry endlessly about this stuff...we should ALL be worrying about it.
At 08:33 AM 10/09/2000 -0700, you wrote:
>I've been having a lot of conversations about DVD and educational videos
>these days because it may become a vital issue -- or quite honestly, not --
>in the next few years. My concern mostly revolves around the independent
>filmmakers and nonprofit distributors who may have many films and couldn't
>possibly afford to put them all out on DVD.
>In the next few years, more video stores and yes, institutions, will be
>allotting more and more money to DVD and though the educational videos may
>still sell, they will be selling fewer and fewer as the change occurs. When
>16mm changed to VHS, many important titles were lost because original
>materials couldn't be found or too costly to transfer. When I had a chat with
>Debbie Zimmerman of Woman Make Movies, that was her concern too -- that the
>handful of films she carries selling only a few copies a year (though as we
>all know, may be the most valuable films) won't make the transition.
>I've asked the people at the New York State Council on the Arts to consider a
>special fund for filmmakers and nonprofit distributors for the transfer of
>films to DVD and they are interested. At the same time, they had a very valid
>point. What happens in five years if DVD is outmoded and everything is made
>available through the internet for a fee? Thankfully the transfers they used
>for DVD can be used for digital output for the internet, but the costs of
>pressing and marketing DVDs will entirely be wasted. At the same time, most
>video transfers can physically last many years, but after five or six, they
>look murky and unfocused compared to new transfers using new machines. Also,
>no one knows how long digital transfers will last or the machines to back
>Please understand, companies like Milestone and Criterion and Kino will do
>well with DVD and the upcoming future. I don't think there's a thing that
>thrills commercial distributors more than a new technology to exploit. :-)
>A concern for libraries now will be a whole new generation of films that
>might be "lost" for lack of effort now. Do I have an answer? Not really,
>since technology is moving at such a fast pace that no one can predict what
>will happen. By next year all theater chains were supposed to be going
>digital -- now most are bankrupt and probably won't want to put up the costs.
>Internet? Most of the new shiny IPO companies that were going to sell access
>to specialized features has gone bankrupt or may do so in the next year.
>The only thing I can suggest is to call your state and local art agencies and
>convince them of the need for "archival" distribution funds for filmmakers
>and non-profits to ensure that these films will remain available.
>Milestone Film & Video
>PO Box 128
>Harrington Park, NJ 07640
>Phone: (201) 767-3117 or (800) 603-1104
>Fax: (201) 767-3035
Media Resources Center
UC Berkeley 94720-6000
"Everything wants to become television"
(Gregory Ulmer. Teletheory : Grammatology in the Age of Video)